Double moated site of Old Hall, 250m north west of Church Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015269

Date first listed: 10-Feb-1981

Date of most recent amendment: 19-Nov-1996


Ordnance survey map of Double moated site of Old Hall, 250m north west of Church Farm
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Norfolk

District: Breckland (District Authority)

Parish: South Acre

National Grid Reference: TF 81185 14586


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

Around 6,000 moated sites are known in England. They consist of wide ditches, often or seasonally water-filled, partly or completely enclosing one or more islands of dry ground on which stood domestic or religious buildings. In some cases the islands were used for horticulture. The majority of moated sites served as prestigious aristocratic and seigneurial residences with the provision of a moat intended as a status symbol rather than a practical military defence. The peak period during which moated sites were built was between about 1250 and 1350 and by far the greatest concentration lies in central and eastern parts of England. However, moated sites were built throughout the medieval period, are widely scattered throughout England and exhibit a high level of diversity in their forms and sizes. They form a significant class of medieval monument and are important for the understanding of the distribution of wealth and status in the countryside. Many examples provide conditions favourable to the survival of organic remains.

The double moated site of Old Hall survives very well with extensive remains of what are believed to be at least two successive manor houses, and the survival of these two distinct sets of buildings, unobscured by later occupation of the site, are of particular value for comparative study in relation to the documented history of the manor. Organic materials, including evidence for the local environment, are also likely to be preserved in waterlogged deposits in the western moat, and the buried ground surface beneath the raised platform enclosed by the same moat will retain archaeological evidence for earlier land use. The historical association of the Harsick family with Castle Acre and Castle Acre priory on the opposite side of the river give the monument additional interest.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes, two adjacent but distinct moated enclosures which are believed to be the site of South Acre manor, located on the south side of the River Nar, c.250m north east of St George's Parish Church. On the opposite side of the river lies the precinct of Castle Acre priory, which is the subject of a separate scheduling (SM 21416). Both the moated sites contain the visible remains of substantial masonry structures, including buildings, and in the area between them are the buried remains of another building, also included in the scheduling.

The western moated site is sub rectangular in plan and has overall maximum dimensions of c.87m north-south by 71m. The moat ditch, which has become partly silted but remains waterlogged and usually contains some water, has a visible depth of c.1.5m and varies in width between 15m in the western arm and c.10m in the eastern arm. The northern end of the eastern arm projects towards the river to which it would have been connected by a sluice, and here it is separated from the eastern end of the northern arm by a baulk c.7m wide. Between the northern arm and the river there is a low earthen retaining dam c.0.5m high and c.5m wide. The moat surrounds a raised central platform up to c.0.4m in height above the prevailing ground surface. Access to the interior was by means of a bridge across the eastern end of the southern arm. The remains of the northern end of this bridge are visible as a massive block of flint rubble masonry c.7.75m wide projecting from the inner face of the moat ditch, and there is a corresponding projection in the outer face which is likely also to contain buried masonry.

On the southern half of the central platform and along the north eastern side there are earthworks up to 0.5m in height which contain further fragments of flint rubble masonry and exposed wall footings up to c.1m thick, representing the remains of buildings which appear to have been ranged around a rectangular, walled courtyard.

The second moated site is c.26m to the east of the other and is rectangular in plan, with maximum overall dimensions of 82.5m north west-south east by c.69m. The moat ditch, which has become partly infilled and is now dry, ranges from c.10m to c.15m in width and has a visible depth of between 0.5m in the western and c.1.5m in the eastern arm. The upper part of the outer edge of the northern arm has probably been eroded by the river which runs alongside it, but the eastern end of it remains visible as a slight scarp c.0.3m in height, and the rest of it will survive as a buried feature. A causeway c.7m wide across the western arm provides access to the interior.

Within the moated area the outlines of parts of two large buildings can be traced, defined by flint rubble wall footings visible on or just below the ground surface and by earthen mounds and banks up to c.1m in height covering areas of fallen and upstanding masonry. In dry conditions some of these buried walls can also be seen as parch marks in the grass, and as such have been recorded by means of aerial photography. The larger of the two buildings occupies the central and western part of the moated site, opposite the causeway, and was probably of open `E' plan, c.30m in length, with a central block c.7m wide aligned NNW-SSE and wings projecting westwards at either end, Another, smaller extension measuring c.6m east-west by c.4m projects eastwards from the southern end of the central block. The second building, immediately to the south east of this, is on a similar alignment, and is rectangular, with maximum dimensions of c.24m NNW-SSE by c.7.5m.

The southern end of the interior of the moated site was probably surrounded by another wall, evidence for which includes parch marks, recorded along the southern and south eastern margins, and earthen mounds c.0.5m in height at the south western and south eastern internal angles of the moat.

The remains of the small building between the two moats are visible in another earthen mound c.1m in height standing opposite the causeway across the western arm of the eastern moat and close to the outer edge of the eastern arm of the western moat. The building measures c.6m east-west by c.4m, with an entrance at the west end.

In the early 12th century the manor of Southacre was held from Earl Warenne by Sir Eudo de Harsick, who was castellan of Castle Acre. He and his successors were also benefactors of Castle Acre priory, endowing it with various gifts of land. The manor was held by the Harsick family until the death of Sir John Harsick in 1454, after which it passed by marriage successively to the Dorward, Fotheringay, Beaupre and Bell families until sold c.1621 to Edward Barkham, Lord Mayor of London. It was conveyed to Sir Andrew Fountaine of Narham in 1703. The buildings on the two moated sites are thought to be the remains of successive manor houses, and the building between the two has been identified as a free chapel which was founded by the Harsicks for their private use. A medieval brass and other memorials to the Harsick family are preserved within the parish church nearby.

Modern fences surrounding the two moats are excluded from the scheduling, together with an animal shelter constructed of wood and tarpaulin which is situated between them, and a service pole within the eastern moat, although the ground beneath these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 21417

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Blomefield, F, An Essay towards a Topographical History of Norfolk, (1807), 77-89
Blomefield, F, An Essay towards a Topographical History of Norfolk, (1807), 79
Blomefield, F, An Essay towards a Topographical History of Norfolk, (1807), 77-87

End of official listing